Thursday, May 15, 2014

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

by Anthony Marra

This book covers a ten year period of wars in Chechnya between 1994-2004. A young girl, Havaa is left orphaned after her father is taken away by Russian militants, who are now hunting for the girl. A neighbor, Akhmed takes her into the city where he leaves her in the care of the resident doctor, Sonja, who is the only doctor in a nearly demolished hospital.

I had a hard time sticking with A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. The characters seemed so similar and their relationships were so intertwined that I had to keep looking back to refresh which one I was reading about, which if you use an e-reader you know is not an easy task. The story is told using flashback with a timeline heading each chapter, but the transitions were poor, making it confusing. There was just too much going on and no clear focus. Sonja was looking for her lost sister, who ran away in an attempt to escape her drug addiction. Akhmed was a doctor who wanted to be an artist and had a son who turned traitor after his horrible experience during the first war and then betrayed his neighbors during the second attack. Havaa's father opened his house to refugees after war 1 then was recaptured in war 2, but not before hiding his daughter. There were some war story details, but not a lot to distinguish it as exclusive to Chechnya over any other war torn place.

This could have been a great book with some editing because Marra clearly has a talent for writing, just lacks  direction. 

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